Innovations in Communication Instruction at MIT: Celebrating Ten Years of the Communication Requirement (CR)
This Fall 2011 term marks 10 years since the first entering class was subject to the Communication Requirement (CR). Beginning with the Class of 2005, the new CR replaced a narrower writing requirement that asked students to demonstrate competency in writing at two levels.
Under the current CR all MIT undergraduates fulfill a Communication Requirement by completing a program of four communication intensive (CI) subjects that integrate substantial instruction and practice in writing and oral communication. The CR requires that students complete at least one CI subject in each year of undergraduate study in order to ensure that their communication training is distributed. Two of the required CI subjects are chosen from a group of designated humanities, arts, and social sciences subjects (CI-H) and provide a foundation in effective writing and oral communication in the context of the subject’s focus. The other two required CI subjects, designated as Communication Intensive in the Major (CI-M), are taken in the student’s major department(s). These subjects teach the specific forms of communication common to the field's professional and academic culture. As a result of this structure, there are approximately 152 CI-H subjects and 148 CI-M subjects spanning a diverse range of topics and formats (including laboratory classes, seminars, senior theses, and independent research projects) offered across all five Schools of the Institute.
In celebration of this tenth anniversary and as a part of the MIT150 events, the faculty-led Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR) sponsored “Innovations in Communication Instruction: Lessons from Ten Years of the Communication Requirement” on April 27.
With the goal of collecting and sharing examples of best practices in communication instruction, SOCR invited several CI-H and CI-M instructors to discuss the successes and challenges of teaching CI subjects at MIT. Professors Sandy Alexander and David Jones discussed their CI-H subjects, while Professors David Wallace and Haynes Miller, in collaboration with Susan Ruff, a Lecturer from Writing Across the Curriculum, described their CI-M subjects. Also joining the conversation was Naomi Stein ’10 – a former SOCR member, recent graduate of MIT, and current graduate student – to reflect on her experience with the CR. The session concluded with a lively open discussion moderated by Diana Henderson, Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support and Professor of Literature. A few key themes emerged from the presentations and the discussion:
SOCR has long sought to develop a “Best Practices Inventory” for teaching CI subjects, and to share this collection with the MIT community. The Subcommittee hopes such a study will inform the design of new CI subjects, offer the potential to improve existing ones, and promote conversation among faculty members teaching CI subjects. This well-attended event presented SOCR with many ideas for moving forward with the project. The Subcommittee hopes this will be the first of several events designed to share faculty practices and perspectives on teaching the Communication Requirement. We look forward to continuing this conversation about communication instruction throughout the Institute. If you have ideas or suggestions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video of the event is available through the CR Website.